Managing urban growth has become one of the most important challenges of
the 21st century. In cities with transparent governance and effective
legislation, urban planning can be a creative tool for fostering
regeneration or directing urban growth. However, some of the most acute
challenges of rapid growth – poverty, environmental pollution and risk –
occur in the poorest and most fragile states, especially in sub- Saharan
Africa and South Asia, where innovative problem-solving is required.
The philosophy of planning sustainable and inclusive cities integrates
the principles of sustainable development (e.g. resource and energy
conservation and environmental improvement) with those of social
inclusion (e.g. reducing poverty and improving access to housing and
urban services). Urban planning interventions need to be fit for
purpose, based on a sound understanding of the local environment,
politics and economics, with a recognition of contextual and capacity
limitations, and the degree of political willingness to intervene. A
central problem is that, in many countries, planning legislation is
inherited or outdated and is no longer fit to deal with 21st century
challenges of growth, poverty or climate change.
Drawing on a wide review of practice and academic literature, this Topic
Guide summarises key debates to provide an understanding of the
potential and limitations of urban planning as a tool for urban
management and governance. The report has seven chapters.
Following the introduction in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 examines the context
of urban planning, emphasising the importance of history and legacy, the
role of local government as a key delivery agency of urban planning, and
limitations of planning under different paradigms of land ownership. The
implications for practice suggest the need for reliable population and
urban statistics and effective local governance.
Chapter 3 outlines the complex challenges of informal urban development,
now the norm in many cities of the global South. The chapter looks at
informal settlements and housing (considering housing as both a service
and an asset), evolving approaches to housing policy and the informal
economies, which form the main source of livelihoods for the urban poor.
The implications for practice are that understanding the complexity of
informal cities is a crucial role for urban planners.
Chapter 4 discusses spatial planning approaches typical of formal
planning systems, including the genesis of urban planning, principles of
participation and the challenge of working in poorly developed
administrations. Techniques of strategic planning, development
management, action planning and common planning tools are also explored.
The implications for practice suggest the need for locally-appropriate
and pro-poor solutions to urban challenges that integrate physical and
Chapter 5 examines the potential for intervention where informal
development is the norm, examining issues of inclusion/exclusion in
cities that necessitate innovative use of urban planning tools. The
chapter explores drivers of exclusion, including gender and ethnicity,
before examining the potential of rights-based approaches to
development, and the right to the city agenda, to frame new planning
paradigms and inform slum upgrading and community-led development
initiatives. Finally, the challenge of working in fragile states is
Chapter 6 examines concepts of sustainable development and sustainable
cities. It first explores the role of urban planning in conserving urban
food, energy and water resources, before examining concepts of
resilience and climate change adaptation in responding to urban hazards.
The chapter examines urban planning as a key delivery mechanism for
fostering sustainable cities through compact city design and public
transport-led growth. Finally, the role of technology in improving data
access and responsive urban design is examined.
Overall, the guide argues that urban planning has huge potential to
address the major threats to cities of the 21st century – poverty,
inequity and environmental risk – but its potential is undermined by the
dominant market paradigms, and a stronger social-justice approach is
needed to address challenges posed by dominant market paradigms.
This Topic Guide has been produced by Evidence on Demand with the
assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID)
contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and
Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL
PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE
Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited.
Brown, A. Topic Guide: Planning for sustainable and inclusive cities in the global South. Evidence on Demand, UK (2015) v + 63 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_tg.march2015.browna]